Nadal avoids upset, reaches Madrid semis

Madrid, May 10 (EFE).- Spain's Rafael Nadal narrowly avoided defeat at the Mutua Madrid Open, pulling out a 4-6, 7-6 (7-3), 6-0 win Friday over countryman David Ferrer to secure a berth in the semifinals.

Ferrer had victory in his sights when his opponent, serving down 4-6, 5-6, 15-30 on the scoreboard, found himself in no man's land after an ill-advised foray to the net.

But the world No. 4 made a questionable decision to hit a mid-court forehand at Nadal's feet instead of into the open court, allowing his opponent to execute a well-placed offensive lob and eventually take the point on an overhead.

Although Ferrer would later go up a mini-break in the second-set tiebreaker, that point proved to be his downfall as Nadal, the world No. 5, did not lose another game for the remainder of the two-hour, 36-minute match.

Ferrer, the heavy underdog against the 11-time Grand Slam champion despite their current rankings, had been the superior player prior to squandering that opportunity, hitting out aggressively on his forehand and benefiting from numerous blunders at the net by Nadal.

Nadal also lacked effectiveness with his backhand slice, repeatedly floating the shot and allowing Ferrer to seize the initiative in the points.

But Nadal played his best tennis of the match in the third set, when Ferrer shot himself in the foot with numerous unforced errors.

With the win, the 26-year-old Nadal kept alive his bid to win his 40th career clay-court title, which would put him five short of the Open Era record held by Argentina's Guillermo Vilas.

The Spaniard, who will take on either Japan's Kei Nishikori or countryman Pablo Andujar in Saturday's semifinals, will be trying to reach his seventh straight final since returning to the ATP Tour in February after a long injury layoff.

Friday's other two men's quarterfinals will pit Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka against Frenchman Jo-Wifried Tsonga and Czech Tomas Berdych against Scotland's Andy Murray.

In women's quarterfinal action Friday, the tournament's two top seeds, American world No. 1 Serena Williams and Russian world No. 2 Maria Sharapova, both pulled out victories in contrasting fashion.

Williams bounced back after a lethargic second set to eke out a 6-3, 0-6, 7-5 victory over Spain's Anabel Medina-Garrigues, while Sharapova cruised to a routine 6-2, 6-4 win over Estonia's Kaia Kanepi.

Williams will square off against Italy's Sara Errani in the first semifinal before Sharapova takes on Serbia's Ana Ivanovic.

The Mutua Madrid Open is one of the biggest clay-court events on the ATP and WTA calendars and a key tune-up for the French Open, which gets underway later this month.